I’ve Tried Everything to Stop Armpit Sweat, but the Only Thing That Worked Was… Microwaving Them

Photo: Plume Creative
"Why don't you just microwave your armpits?"

A fellow beauty editor made the suggestion after listening to me complain for the two-hundredth time that yet another deodorant had failed me. Having dealt with an armpit sweating problem since I was eight years old (I will never, ever forget the day my mom pulled me aside and told me it was time to start wearing deodorant), pit stains were a part of life. I'd tested every clinical strength deodorant on the market, changed my diet, and had even gotten Botox injections. But nothing ever really worked (like forever), and my sweat-soaked grey t-shirts stood as proof.

Naturally, "microwaving my armpits" was met with a decent amount of hesitation and hours and hours of Internet research. The treatment, formally called MiraDry, uses microwave energy to target—and eliminate—the sweat and odor glands under your armpits. It's the only FDA-cleared treatment that's been proven to dramatically decrease underarm sweating, and based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews I read online, it has legitimately changed the lives of people with hyperhidrosis and overactive sweat glands. As Well+Good's resident "try anything" girl, I figured, "Why not?" and booked an appointment at New York City's Tribeca MedSpa.

How the treatment works

Understandably, I had a lot of questions about Miradry, which Gerald D. Ginsberg, MD, FACS, Tribeca Medspa medical director, was more than happy to answer. First up, how, exactly, does it work? "The way we reduce the sweating is by knocking out the function of the sweat glands," he told me. "We do this by making their local environment too hot to remain functional. We have a machine that delivers a measured amount of heat—almost like a pharmacy dispensing the exact amount of medicine you need," he says. The MiraDry machine is able to dose out just enough heat to reduce the sweat glands without damaging anything surrounding them permanently.

While all of this sounded like good news, I had another nagging concern: Would the fact that I'd stopped sweating in my armpits cause me to become sweaty elsewhere? Nope, Dr. Ginsberg  assures me (and the MiraDry website confirms as much). "Sweating is just dependent on how many glands you have in that area—if you remove the glands, you're not going to sweat elsewhere," he says. As far as other side effects go, MiraDry warns of "short-term altered sensation in the skin of their underarms or upper arms," but that's known to gradually disappear. According to the brand's website, it's been used safely over 140,000 times (plus, it's FDA approved) which definitely helped calm any nagging fears that I had about getting my armpits nuked.

And the best part of pre-treatment knowledge Dr. Ginsberg dropped on me? "Once you have the treatment, it will last forever." Sign. Me. Up.

Leading up to the treatment

The week before my treatment, I received a list of instructions detailing exactly what I needed to do to get my armpits ready for business. I was advised to shave them four to six days ahead of time, because the hair growth pattern helps to identify exactly which area needs to be treated, and I had to skip deodorant for 24 hours leading up to my appointment (which, as you can imagine, was a terrifying prospect for someone with a lifelong sweating problem). That was pretty much it. The entire procedure was set to last two hours, but I was advised that I would likely be in pain afterward. I planned the appointment for a day when I was working from home so that I wouldn't have to force my coworkers to watch me nurse my armpits at my desk (you're welcome, guys).

The day of the treatment

The treatment began with a series of local anesthetic injections under my arm to numb the area, which was by far the most uncomfortable part of the session. After the first two shots on either side, I could barely feel the rest of them (but I did have to wait for a while for the numbing effect to really take effect). Next, the physician's assistant placed a temporary tattoo under my armpit (talk about a place I never thought I'd have a tattoo) that looked like an old-school "paint by numbers," and would serve as a guide for the machine. Then, Dr. Ginsberg's physician's assistant got to work. I didn't feel anything as she moved the machine slowly along the markers, zapping each section in a way that reminded me of laser hair removal. She finished my left side and repeated the same thing on the right, and it was over before I knew it (about 15 minutes on each side).

Immediately after the treatment

I'm not going to lie to you: In the hours following the treatment, I was in a lot of pain. My armpits were so swollen that I couldn't raise or lower my arms, and they were red and lumpy in a way that would have definitely alarmed me if Dr. Ginsberg hadn't assured me it was "totally normal." I iced it the way you would an injury—20 minutes on, 20 minutes off—for 48 hours, and loaded up on Ibuprofen to reduce swelling. I had to stay away from deodorant, razors, and topical cream for about a week, and since the area was raw, I could only use antibacterial soap and clean towels under there until it healed. I was also advised to stay away from any "strenuous activity," which I used as an excuse to skip the gym for five days. You know: Doctor's orders.

3 months post-treatment

Considering I've tried all kinds of "miracle" sweating cures in the past, my expectations for this one were, admittedly, low. Three months later, I couldn't be happier to report that I was wrong. The lumps and discomfort stuck around under my arms for eight weeks, and around day 10 there was a pretty nasty "purge" where I sweat and smelled more than ever—but it was more than worth it. I haven't touched an antiperspirant since my appointment, and I'm now a proud user of aluminum-free deodorant.

I've worn shirts that I'd avoided for years, and there hasn't been a pit stain in sight. I knew my sweating situation was a problem, but I didn’t realize just how much of a problem it was until it was gone. In other words, I had no idea I'd spent 20 years of my life regularly smelling like BO, until I stopped smelling like BO. My mom is thrilled, and my dry cleaning budget has never been better. I still sweat a little bit (mostly when I'm super stressed out), but I can now walk out of a Barry's Bootcamp class without immediately sprinting to the locker room to reapply heavy-duty antiperspirant. And one other awesome side-effect? MiraDry also affects hair growth, so I've barely had to touch a razor in three months.

The treatment, which usually costs around $2,300, is hardly a small investment. But if you've spent years dealing with the embarrassment—and dry cleaning bills—associated with sweating, I'm a big believer that it's worth it (if only for the sake of finally being able to wear grey t-shirt).

Here's how to tell if your sweating could be a sign of something more serious. Plus, what a professional armpit sniffer wants you to know about deodorant

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